Three years ago a former Edenton resident told me: “The town leaders still have some things to answer for about Little Rascals, and I suspect that until there is a process of reconciliation, the town will remain a troubled place, though it does a good job putting on a facade.”
Edenton will elect its town officials Nov. 5. The predominant issues – population decline and the lack of a second supermarket – are clearly important, but I want to add another. This is from a query I sent all the candidates:
I don’t live in Edenton, but I’m reaching out to candidates for mayor and town council about a local issue of historic importance.
The Little Rascals Day Care case was Edenton’s most significant event of the 20th Century. The trial of Robert Kelly remains the longest and most expensive in North Carolina history. He served six years in prison before the North Carolina Court of Appeals overturned his conviction and that of Dawn Wilson. The lives of Kelly, Wilson and the five other defendants were profoundly harmed over allegations of “satanic ritual abuse” of children in their care.
The Little Rascals case, most prominently covered by eight hours of documentary coverage on PBS’s “Frontline,” also did nationwide damage to the town’s reputation. But Edenton has never reexamined, much less made amends for, the wrongful prosecution of the Edenton Seven. One way to move forward would be to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Fact-finding, non-judicial truth commissions first appeared in the 1970s and have since been used to foster honest discussion and to encourage reconciliation in the aftermath of community conflict.
In North Carolina the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission was an independent, seven-member body that sought to heal a city left divided and weakened by the “Greensboro Massacre” of 1979. The parallel to Edenton is inexact but undeniable.
If elected, would you consider supporting a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address Edenton’s continuing divide over the Little Rascals Day Care case? Thank you for your time and attention. And good luck in your campaign.
The two candidates who have responded so far seem at least cautiously open to the idea. One day the Town of Edenton will surely find the courage to embark on its long-avoided “process of reconciliation” – let’s hope the Edenton Seven are around to see it.’